'We really need it': Two new schools coming to central Alberta
Stock photo of a classroom. (skynesher / IStock.com)
RED DEER -- Two new schools are now in the works for the central Alberta region.
Last week, the province announced $397 million to build or modernize 25 schools across the province, including new facilities in each Red Deer and Blackfalds.
The school in Red Deer will be a middle school (Grades 6 to 9) in the Red Deer Catholic School Division.
“We’re thrilled. We really need it,” said Red Deer Catholic School Board Chair Anne Marie Watson. "This our top priority, so we’re really happy to have that news."
This year, the Catholic school division says it saw enrollment grow 1.7 per cent. The division now has 10,483 students. St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School told CTV News it is over capacity by 37 per cent.
The new school is expected to help with capacity issues across the city.
“Our other middle schools in Red Deer are well over 100 per cent as well. So students are really squished in. They’re meeting in untraditional spaces like the library or the gathering space to have classes; It’s not an ideal learning environment,” Watson said.
The new school is expected to house 700 students according to the school division's three-year capital plan. While a location for the new school hasn’t been decided yet, teachers are already excited.
“Teachers are excited for smaller classes when it comes on board. No one can wait. It would be nice if we were opening this new school this year. It will be a long few years,” said Watson.
In Blackfalds, a new high school will be built as well, a first for the town.
“To have a community of over 10,000 residents and no high school is really a challenge for the community. We ideally want our students to be educated in the community that they live in,” said Wolf Creek School Division Superintendent Jayson Lovell.
Currently, students attend Lacombe Composite High School, which is sitting at around 87 per cent capacity.
“We’ve been watching those numbers grow over time, so as we project down the road, to not have the enrollment pressures in that school once this new school gets built, it will alleviate those pressures and ultimately address some of the facility pressures we’re seeing,” Lovell said.
The student are bussed around 30 kilometres each day. The division is excited students will no longer have to deal with the safety risks associated with commuting.
“To have 300 students not get on a bus and have to drive to Lacombe, and taking up the time as well with the commute going back and forth, is important,” said Lovell.
The new school, which will accommodate 850 students, is slated to be built on the 5.4 acres of land next to the Iron Ridge Junior Campus. According to Lovell, the town plans to develop the for a multi-use recreation facility.
The money received for the two school divisions is dedicated to design and planning.
Construction is not expected to begin for two to three years.